Wireless health is the newest trend in healthcare which pertains to use of wireless medical devices in any procedure of diagnostics, monitoring, treatment and drug administration. A wireless medical device is any device which is able to execute a medical procedure through means of a wireless technology which can include 3G, 4G, IEEE 802.11n, Bluetooth, NFC or any other wireless data transmission technology or standard. There are also specially designed wireless transmission technologies like BodyLAN or ANT+ which require very little energy to enable a device for data transmission, often that’s amount of energy an average human body can produce on its own, with no need for carrying batteries to power these devices.
Wireless Health and Similar Concepts
Note that wireless health devices aren’t necessarily Internet-connective devices. In many cases, such a device will just produce data which is stored locally and is read by the patients themselves, or is observed by medical personnel. Some, however, report each patient’s data into a healthcare facility’s database over the Internet, allowing the personnel to analyze these data later without need from the patient to be present.
The wireless health concept also allows for home care, inpatient and outpatient procedures, so it often doesn’t involve use of any means other than connective medical equipment and the local wireless network – most often in a healthcare facility or a home care. This makes the notion of wireless health different from mHealth, since not all wireless health procedures require a mobile phone, tablet or a similar device.
Wireless health is actually much more present than you should imagine. In fact, a baby monitor fulfills all roles to qualify as a wireless health device. It helps pick up signals from babies in need for something, and transmit that signal through means of wireless data transmission locally. The fact that cry of a baby doesn’t usually imply health issues doesn’t matter. It reveals their physiological needs a baby can’t satisfy on his or her own, thus prompting an action of the elders to take actions considered as care. Knowing that the first wireless baby monitor appeared in 1937, it’s clear that the wireless health concept is way older than mHealth, eHealth and other similar concepts.
Wireless health technologies have already found broad applications in these four areas:
- Patient health stats monitoring
- Mobile wireless biosensor systems.
- Wireless patient tracking.
- Wireless surgery.
Wireless technologies applied in healthcare can improve many procedures by making them easier, faster, cheaper, more precise, more convenient and comfortable for patients, allowing them to be more mobile. Wireless health devices benefit from advancement of battery technology, big data storage, advanced materials, nanotechnology, and biosensor technology. Materials applied are also sterile and there’s almost no risk of infection.
Data availability for various diagnostic wireless health devices is also a huge advantage. For example, recent developments of wireless medical devices allowed for development of OGTT testing kits which can be used at home. It can put a complicated and lengthy outpatient procedure to the patient’s own home. Also, it decreases costs and increases convenience for many other diagnostic procedures, including blood and urine tests and various other check-ups where a sensory device can be placed inside or outside the body. Thanks to nanotechnology, low energy consumption wireless data transmission protocols and high precision sensors, these devices can be placed where sensation gives the best possible results while being very convenient for the patient.
Wireless surgery is perhaps the most revolutionary thing about wireless health. The ideas that a pacemaker can be so tiny that it can be injected into bloodstream close to the body surface, or that a gastrointestinal endoscopic capsule can contain surgical instruments to operate in the patient’s bowel are very close to reality.
Wireless health devices are leading edge stuff in medical technology. Their development requires huge investments in development resources, talent and testing which entails high pricing. Cost of use per patient for many wireless health procedures may be too high for most patients, and health insurance bodies, being state sponsored or private, might be hesitant to their fast introduction. However, having Moore’s law in mind we can assume that these devices will become better and cheaper in the future, making these affordable for most patients.
Effects of electromagnetic field exposure from wireless radio networks utilized by wireless health devices is not of a significant importance in most cases. On the other hand, some patients suffer from disorders which may prevent use of wireless technology in treating them. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity is the most common example.